10 Things To Know Before Starting University


If you are anything like me you are a mixture of excitement, fear and anticipation (BUST MOSTLY FEAR) as Fresher Week and Uni life is about to begin. I'm filled with nostalgia after graduating uni last year. I know a lot people who are starting their university journey this year, so thought i would share with you guys my advice and experiences.

You will all recognise this typical halls room layout. This was mine in first year. Tip: Don't put things on the walls.. it doesn't go down well (oops). 
At the beginning of October 2011 I was 'settled' (or more like thrown in at the deep end) into a new room and new beginnings in my uni halls over 4 hours from home. I was all set with my Ikea boxes, carefully selected bed sheets that I thought were cool....they wearn't.  One was a floral granny number, the other was from the boys department in Primark and had cassette tapes on it. Polaroid pictures of friends, family (and my two fave teachers for a little inspiration - yes i was a dork) were on the pin board and i was fully prepared to work hard.

[Awww look at ickle Sabs. Spot the Archers and box of chocolates - yeah its a big box, appaz i needed that much help. Although free food is a great way to students hearts!]

A full bottle of Archers sat on a shelf (when i went to uni I had instilled in me the fear that if i got drunk - i would die), don't worry i quickly learn't that although it could cause you to spend a night on the bathroom floor and embarrassing pictures of you to be tagged on Facebook the next morning you wouldn't actually die. My mum had also left me with a massive box of Roses Chocolates to try and help me to make friends as i was shy and socially awkward.

By around this time you will be sick of hearing everyone say, "Uni is the best time of your life, make the most of it because its your last chance of freedom" blah blah blah. But it's true. I have always been a hard worker so for me I thought my main goal at uni, just like school, was to study and learn. So much so that i kind of forgot and neglected the most important part of university that is that you grow up and through mistakes, heartbreak, drunken nights you learn from your mistakes and eventually become a well rounded, more experienced individual (or 'adult' at a push). If anything university is the School Of Life teaching you a few important things that make you ready for the real world.

1. Dont Freak Out.... this starts with Freshers

I freaked out... A LOT and i think that stinted my happiness a lot at university. I was scared to let go on my inhibitions and be a little careless. I was sensible Sabs and Freshers quite frankly scared the s*** out of me. I'm laughing out loud just thinking about the first few freshers nights that I pretended to drink my Peach Schnapps during a drinking game and would feel so much panic and anxiety being in a club filled with OTT drunk people who could throw up on me or DIE at any minute.

 [One of my first nights out in Freshers and i can 100% say that 99% of that drink is lemonade. My facial expression says it all.]
All while being in the middle of a city i had no idea how to get back home - its all very overwhelming. Luckily there was a girl in my flat who just flat out hated clubbing (and also people) so i can remember standing at the top of Revs looking at the clock waiting for it to pass a few more minutes till Midnight so it was acceptable for us to leave.

[There was a cross on my head because i got labelled 'Hipster' as soon as i went from my London roots to Up North... in my white creepers.]
If you think you may be a bit like me with heavy anxiety here is my advice: Force yourself to stay at least 20 more minutes. Go and buy yourself a drink and chat to your so far closest room mate. Or if like me you didn't get a great bunch there will be someone at that bar who will happily have a conversation with you and want to get to know you. That's the great thing about freshers, everyone wants to befriend everyone. Look at everyone around you having fun, you could be having that much fun too if you just stopped worrying. I'm pretty sure if you stay and think 'whats the worst that can happen?' you will end up having a great time.

2. Work Is Not Everything

If i havn't given it away already i have a strong work ethic. Passed down to me from teacher and my family i wanted to make them proud. Plus learning at this point at life is all i really knew and was what i thought defined success. But let me say this what you study does not define you. Lots of degrees at the end of your 3/4 years just ends up as a footnote at the end of your CV (sad but true). I came away from uni learning equally more about myself as i did the skills in my degree.

[The legit feedback to my first ever essay "too may references to Wikipedia" - I had NO idea what i was doing haha!]

In my first year i didn't miss one lecture, seminar or extra lecture (yes i know i was a geek). Looking back I can now see that turning up to that 9am lecture on a Friday when EVERYTHING inside of me was telling me to stay in my bed after not getting home till 6am was just stupid and utterly pointless. If i had missed it would it have a huge detrimental effect on my degree? Nope. Do I remember what i learn't? Nope. Should i have stayed cuddled up in my bed? OH MY GOD YES. I did however learn this the hard way when i turned up to a seminar feeling very rough and my lecturer said i looked so ill he sent me home.

Advice: Firstly it's not school you don't get a gold star for effort, lecturers will mark you with no regard to how much work you put in (I learn't this the hard way). Someone will always be better than you so just do your thing and work diligently as long as you know you tried that's all that matters. You just need to graduate, its just another stepping block in life - don't make it your life. I came out with a 2:1 and probably still would have come out with a 2:1 with 20% less effort. So if its between missing a day of work and having to pull a all nighter (which is actually fun it you are in good company) VS going on a spontaneous adventure with your mates - pick the second one.

3. Be Open To Experiences

Join a society, do projects with your friends, say yes to everything (well not everything if you know what i'm saying but within reason). I gradually became more confident at uni and that wasn't by staying in my comfort zone. I even became one of those girls who always goes out and is known by the club bouncers. And on a more adult level passed my driving test.

I also went on a trip to Amsterdam on a ferry with loads of my mates (who were all mostly couples) and it turned out to be like a Skins- esque episode, it actually turned out to be pretty dramatic but it definitely was an experience and hey i'm still alive.

Advice: Don't take life too seriously, you will thank yourself for it when you realise later on in life how much you have grown as a person. Step out of your comfort zone, the first step is always the worst.

[Yep that is me. Think i had been drinking red VK not blood. My hair was glow in the dark and could still be seen glowing through my beanie in the 9am screening the next morning]

4. No One Remembers The Night They Got A Good Nights Sleep

I once went to pre-drinks in my pajamas (determined this time not to go out) and my friends stormed me down to my room, got me changed and out and i definitely had more fun than i would have done sleeping.

 [ Proof I went to pre-drinks in my Pajama shirt positive I was not going to go out]
Luckily my time at uni was around the same time Drake coined You Only Live Once and it helped a lot. From hiding in a bathroom with 7 other people (when you see how small the bathrooms are you will think WTF!?) to running from my room at 6am with a friend in order to get away from my freaky roommate.

[Or you may even take off all the light fittings and use them as hats whilst pre-drinking...]
Its not just the going out, even the simple things will stick in your mind i will always remember sitting on a bench at the top of my college with two friends watching the sunrise on our last night of first year, knowing we had just experienced probably one of the best years of our pre-adult lives and that it was over.

They are very random memories but i remembered them enough to put them in this blog post.

Advice: The memories that last are usually the random ones. So pick yourself up, throw on some clothes (pre-drink coffee if you have too - i did that before) and go out. You will be surprised how long your body can go for without any/ very little sleep and its not going to kill you. A conversation i had in first year describes the situation perfectly. My mate was complaining about having to drink another night and we coined the phrase #unilifeproblems (trust me these arn't problems, its just uni life so you might as well make the most of it).

5. There Will Always Be Someone Else Who Wants To Get To Know You Just Around The Corner

[This was our leavers ball and just shows the vast amount of people who you could befriend. I'm hiding/ not paying attention just beside the pink pig]
Some of you will be lucky and your flatmates will be amazing, you will click straight away and be friends for life. However, that does not happen for all of us and if so do not worry. My flat was quite frankly terrible but luckily for me my entire course was very close so i was never short in the friends department.
My course LAS's and I in third year.
If like me you struggle in the beginning just go and talk to others who you think look nice around campus or at a Freshers event. As i said before everyone there wants to make friends. I fondly remember watching Dirty Dancing my second week of uni in a house i had never been in with two girls i had only met an hour earlier. I spent a lot of time in that B2 house in first year and I will forever be thankful to those two girls for including me in the beginning (even if some days it was only to discuss Gossip Girl and Chuck Bass in great detail). 

The B2 peeps who kept me sane and sleeping safe in first year.
Advise: Leave your door open, go for a wonder and go to the college events.

6. Don't Mix Drinks

 [ Sorry Gabs i found this pic of you with two drinks. Gabs is actually one of the most sensible one's out of all of us ha]

This is a simple but important lesson that you will learn by making the mistake of mixing drinks. It is true that mixing alcohol will get you A LOT more drunk than sticking to the same spirit. Do not mix wine, cocktails and vodka etc. It will not end well. We had a club that did £1 tequila shots and if a guy or friend offers to buy you a drink your hardly going to say no. I'm just going to warn you although you will probably learn this mistake on your own.

 Side effects also cause drunk texting or voice mails and no one wants that. Although I once got a hilarious voice message from a friend which i will treasure forever - it was a catchy little song i can still hum it now haha.

Other Advice: ALWAYS get cheesy chips on the way home. It makes life SOO much better.

7. Budget, Budget, BUDGET.

Yes money, money, money. You are in charge of your finances. I know its hard to budget but it is needed if you don't want to go into your dreaded overdraft. I think i was one of the only people out of my friends who never went a penny into their overdraft. Some of the things that may go into your overdraft are inescapable such as rent or living allowances if you wearn't eligible for a bursary or grant. However, some of my friends were just pure stupid we would be 2 weeks into a new term and they would already have blown their budget for the term! There is nothing worse than getting FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) or being 'that friend' who bails because "they cant afford it".

The faces of students who have no money....
VS students whose student loans have just come in!!
Advice: Work out how much you get from student finance and then work out your rent costs first. After that work out how much you have left weekly and that is your allowance. Obviously there will be some weeks where you spend more or less. But at least know on average how much you have to spend on food a week and then give yourself an allowance for going out etc and TRY to stick to it as much as you can.

8. Take Care Of Yourself

University will be difficult and you will have your up's and down's. Someday's it can feel very isolating, even if you are surrounded by all these people and share a kitchen with 12 other people. Make sure you stay in contact with your friends from back home. I Skyped my friends and family regularly just for advice or if i was feeling a bit homesick.

Also I know you will get given at least 5 student cook books. But make sure you stay healthy and look after yourself. I did not do this well. In first year I went complete teenager diet and lived off pizza, pasta, bacon sandwiches, chips etc which left me feeling horrible. However, in third year I did the complete opposite and with stress and the anxiety of cooking in a communal kitchen, which i have never been a fan of I neglected to look after myself nutritiously and ended up dropping a lot of weight. So find a balance that works for you and make sure you listen to your body.

Always have baked beans on toast as a backup meal
Also if you have any problems at university it always pays off to speak to someone. I was the Councillor friend out of our group so i always had friends coming to me to share their problems or for advice. Share your problems with friends or if its on a bigger scale their with be a student support centre that you can go too that a lot of students go too and its nothing to be ashamed of.

Also if the stress of work gets too much go and speak to your Supervisor. I had to do this a few times during university, once when i got exhaustion because i had been just too overwhelmed. They can give you extensions that really help relieve some of the stress and panic.

Top Tip: Work with friends, it makes it so much less stressful and you will be grateful or the extra support
Also my final advise on this matter is to learn how to be content by yourself and happy in your own company. I have always been someone who isn't afraid to be by themselves and give me some cookies, a pot of tea and a few episodes of The Simpsons on a Sunday and i shall be very happy. One of the best things i learn't from university was learn what makes me happy. So don't be afraid of a little YOU time. Go and explore the city or go shopping and grab a coffee by yourself or just do something creative in your room (eg like me i started this blog and look how that turned out!).

One of my proudest moments at uni was starting this blog, spontaneously becoming a  model and then ending up being the face of Ark Clothing.

9. Not Everything Will Work Out

University is not like how they portray it in the movies. Not everyone will end up to be nice and you may be let down. I certainly had my fair share of let downs and issues but that just motivated me to work harder and succeed more. Especially if you are a nice person make sure you stand your ground and don't get walked all over. I learn't from this mistake... and still do.

 Also don't compare your situation to others work, relationship or friendship wise - this is never a good move. Don't worry about living arrangements or why there is no one in your flat who you think could be your Bridesmaid at your wedding - it will all work out (I ended up living by myself back in halls in my final year and it was THE best decision ever when i was hearing about everyone else's drama). Also talking of weddings, lets talk about relationships briefly. Some people will end up to be serial daters or in long term relationships. Others will be loving the single life and some may just not be ready for all that. Don't judge others and don't feel pressured. But don't run away from feelings either and be a coward - you will kick yourself after. Also, don't put all your eggs in one basket whether it be a friendship or relationship because nothing lasts forever and just sticking with one person can really isolate you if that does end.

10. Be Yourself

Possibly the most important lesson of university is that you can go and be whoever you want to be. No one knows your embarrassing school nicknames or whether you were in the popular or geek group. This is the chance to be who you want to be. I'm not talking about being fake and changing who you are to please others or fit in. I'm just saying you can be who you want to be. I went to university a shy, socially awkward girl who was pretty much terrified of everything - had any of you guessed that about me from reading this blog the past 3 years? Didn't think so. Work hard to become the person you want to be.

Right now close your laptop and GO MINGLE Freshers! The 3 or 4 years will fly past so quickly and soon you will be walking away in your gown with my face below. So go and start making the most of it!


  1. Lovely post, I'm happy reading about all the lessons you've learned. I hope you're doing well and above all, healthy and happy! All my love xxxxxxx P.S That's a horrible photo of me!! Hope to see you again soon.


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